What is the team-based discussion all about anyway…

Congratulations on submitting your Round 1 application! Wharton will be the best two years of your life! Now, let’s get you past that curve-ball team-based interview….

My two main points about the team-based interview are these: 1) it is an excellent way for Wharton to evaluate you as a person. Once you get here, your credentials will matter much less than how you interact with your peers; 2) you should prepare for this separately from how you prepare for one-on-one interviews, if for no other reason than to look confident and focused when you get into the room.

How I prepared

  • Visit campus if you can: I toured the campus in November. Round 1 interviewees were already there in the admissions office. This allowed me to see what people were wearing, what they brought with them, and what their mood was heading into their interviews. Were they ambitious, were they nervous, or were they boisterous or shy? They seemed to be a healthy balance of all four. If you can make the trip ahead of your interview (be you round 1, 2 or 3), you can feel out the environment without the pressure.
  • During the visit: I went to an operations (OPIM) class since I was thinking about that as a major. This visit came up later in my essays and one-on-one interview because it allowed me to speak knowledgeably about the classroom experience.
  • Handling the invitation: I received an email invite to the team-based interview. It felt like it came later in the round 2. You will go into an online scheduling tool and select your time and date. I had a minor freak-out thinking that I had to fly to Brazil since that was the only slot that was open. A couple of email exchanges with Admissions clarified that they had not released the next round of Philadelphia slots in the tool just yet. Fear not!
  • Practice: I found ways to practice speaking in groups. I forced myself to speak out more in meetings and I roped in a few people to practice a team-based discussion (none of my friends here did this, but the team discussion was intimidating so I went all out). I also rehearsed laying out my discussion topic response in one minute (our instructions said we had one minute to present our case). There were some people who took longer during my actual interview and they sounded less confident as a result.

What I experienced during my interview

  • Do whatever you need to do to convince yourself that you are AWESOME! The morning of my interview, I went to the gym and blasted it out on the treadmill and machines. This was followed by jamming out to my custom play list all the way to campus from my hotel in Center City.
  • What I saw in the waiting area the day of my interview was exactly what I had seen during my campus visit. Plus, I already knew the receptionist so I felt like I had an ally walking in. I talked to as many of the candidates as possible. Believe it or not, these conversations extended into pre-term when I saw some of these people again. I felt like I had a network from the start.
  • The on-campus team-based discussion will be conducted in a group of five to six people with two second year student evaluators. The evaluators will lay out the format quickly: the prompt, the timing, and their role before you start your discussion.
  • I let people go around and present their topic response, then I presented an evaluation scheme. A great rule of thumb that I heard in a speech by Jane Lynch is: think “Yes, and….” It’s an improv comedy technique that I think is extremely valuable when approaching the team-based interview and personal interactions in general. We may have been one of the few groups that got all the way through a recommendation and final presentation. The evaluators may not remember your conclusion, but they’ll remember how you got there.
  • Remember the one-on-one. My one-on-one interview was conducted with one of the two evaluators. I prepared for this separately instead of just regurgitating what I had said during other school interviews. It’s easy to hyper-focus on the group interview, but don’t forget that this is important too. I asked for my interviewer’s email address (e.g., business card) and sent him a thank you email afterwards.

What I took away

  • My peers approached the interview with varying degrees of preparation. I urge you to prepare by getting to know the school and practicing “yes, and…” early. These actions may help you in your future endeavors regardless of where they lead you.
  • Remember that everyone will be nervous. The less you are or appear to be, the greater the advantage you will have.
  • Everyone, regardless of how outgoing or shy you are, can do well in the team-based interview. It is designed to let all types shine through. Remember to show awareness of and to validate others in the room.
  • Leaders come in many forms. We recognize that and know that one of the greatest values Wharton can provide is to help you to develop your unique strengths and apply them as a leader. Let us get a glimpse of what those are in person through our interview process.

Best of luck as you go forward! Hope to see you on campus!

– Ally